Hold on tight: All-Star qualifying high on excitement
Qualifying for Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway marks a break from the regular weekly format. Instead, each driver makes three laps and hits pit road for a mandatory green-flag stop.
Kyle Busch makes a mandatory green-flag pit stop during qualifying for the 2013 Sprint All-Star Race.
Geoff Burke / Getty Images
By Tom Jensen
There are many unique elements to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, with one of the most exciting taking place during qualifying, which starts at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on FOX Sports 1.
Instead of going out in groups as they typically do, the 22 drivers entered Saturday night will roll off one at a time. And instead of making a single lap, each driver's qualifying run will consist of three consecutive laps, with a mandatory four-tire pit stop.
But here's the kicker: When the drivers come down pit road, there's no mandatory speed limit, as there always is during a live race. Part of the challenge for the drivers will be to go as fast as they possibly can down pit road and still get their cars slowed down in time to hit their pit box.
The no-speed-limit-on-pit-road format is a gut check for drivers and crews alike.
"I don't know if you guys watched the practice getting on to pit road, but that's about the most exciting thing I've done in a race car in a long time," said Carl Edwards, the 2011 all-star winner.
The other difference, albeit it a less dramatic one, is that the 22 cars in Saturday night's race will be impounded after qualifying, meaning teams will be unable to change their setups between qualifying and the race itself, as they typically do.
"We would do things far differently to the race car if it wasn't an impound qualifying procedure this weekend," said Jimmie Johnson, the only four-time event winner and winner of the last two all-star races.
Kyle Busch, who will be one of the favorites heading into Saturday night's race, said what happens during qualifying could have a big impact on what happens in the race.
"You look at the guys who are really good who qualify well," said Busch. "I think qualifying well can always lend itself to racing the All-Star Race well because you're running however many laps that segment is. You're running that many qualifying laps in a row. You're just trying to get the most you can out of your car there."
WATCH! The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race: 7 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX Sports 1